Jan 7, 2022 - News

COVID surge closes central Ohio classrooms again

Data: Columbus City Schools; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

This week's return from winter break has been a struggle for central Ohio schools, with staffing shortages forcing more building closures than any other time this school year.

  • That likely isn't going away any time soon, with COVID-19 cases still surging to unprecedented levels due to the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Why it matters: It's been nearly two years since COVID uprooted our education system. We don't yet know the full impact on children's mental health and academic achievement, but early snapshots suggest it isn't good.

The big picture: Some 4,561 U.S. schools either shifted to virtual learning or closed for at least one day this week, according to a tracker maintained by community event aggregator Burbio.

What's happening: Columbus and Reynoldsburg school districts had multiple buildings go remote every day this week, with Westerville joining Wednesday.

  • Today, Columbus canceled all classes and extracurricular activities districtwide at 6am, citing a lack of bus drivers. Originally, the plan was to have about one-fourth of its schools go remote.

What's next: Honestly, it's anybody's guess. Columbus City Schools, the most impacted district, is making decisions on a building-by-building basis each day with no plans to go fully remote, spokesperson Jacqueline Bryant tells Axios.

  • The district is still seeking substitutes and is 124 teachers short of its goal of 740, Bryant says. The district couldn't provide vacancy fill rates Thursday.

Yes, but: If Omicron sticks around, is this sustainable long-term for families or staff?

What they're saying: "There needs to be consistency," John Coneglio, president of the Columbus Education Association teachers union, tells Axios.

  • "If staff is out and you're just farming fifth-graders into a first-grade classroom, is that learning or is that babysitting?"

Context: As of Thursday, 85% of Ohio students are attending class in-person, according to the Ohio Department of Education. Nearly half aren't required to wear a mask.

💭 Alissa's thought bubble: As a nerd who enjoyed school and learning — I know, how cool — I really empathize with students who are dealing with so much uncertainty week to week.

  • Adults, please do your part to ensure they can stay in school. Wear masks. Stay home if you're feeling sick. Get tested. Get vaccinated.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Columbus.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Columbus stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Columbus.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more